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Open Science: How Increased Collaboration Can Address Challenges

A robust scientific ecosystem is required to deliver generalizable and impactful data that will address our toughest challenges. There are increasing calls for making research open to more effectively identify science-based solutions to our most pressing problems. Sharing research validates results, allows other scientists to leverage supporting data to strengthen their own analyses, and promotes reuse for additional studies.

In combination with equitable access to ensure a broad set of perspectives, Open Science can spark ideas for innovative—and potentially transformative—research. With the proper care to ensure data integrity and privacy, Open Science can be an effective measure to foster collaboration, leading to influential partnerships and promoting equity and inclusion.

What is Open Science?

Open Science is defined as “the principle and practice of making research products and processes available to all, while respecting diverse cultures, maintaining security and privacy, and fostering collaborations, reproducibility, and equity.” In January 2023, the White House Office of Science Technology Policy (OSTP) announced this as the Year of Open Science to encourage equitable access to research, increasing the discoverability, reach, and impact of research findings.

Historically, not every research institution and investigator has had the funding or resources to purchase access to publications, as many require expensive memberships. The Open Science initiative aims to open doors for everyone by shifting to openly sharing findings to increase transparency and accessibility. Bringing the research and knowledge out from behind paywalls can have an immediate impact for us all. 

Open Science Enhances Collaboration for Scientific Progress

Engaging in Open Science practices will also lead to more collaborations that foster growth and discovery. Sharing research and practical knowledge can lead to scientific discussions with a broad range of partners that drive the development of new or continued research. Expanding access to research is essential for ensuring rigor. By making research open, findings can be validated by other researchers who seek to reproduce results and develop them further.

Such transparency—one of the main goals of Open Science— also involves disrupting and breaking down the societal and industry barriers to allow a broader set of actors to participate in research. Interdisciplinary partnerships are crucial to address the problems people are facing today—from matters of public health to the environmental impact of greenhouse gas emissions and more—while accounting for their unique lived experiences, barriers, and resources. Specifically,

  • Scientists from different career stages, communities, and disciplines will be called upon to offer their unique perspectives and untapped knowledge.
  • Under-represented communities can contribute to equity-centered transformative research.
  • Community-level participation and recommendations will improve research practices and outcomes by accounting for the needs of specific populations.

No matter the circumstance, including myriad perspectives is important to enhance rigor, accelerate progress, and translate research findings into action that will be impactful for all. These practices are consistent with RTI’s Transformative Research Unit for Equity (TRUE) framework, which supports transformative research that leverages power, influence, and resources to advance equity.

Collaboration through Data Stewardship is Vital for Open Science

To be effective, moves toward Open Science must ensure that shared data are made available in useable formats while protecting privacy of research participants. One model for such data sharing is the Helping to End Addiction Long-term® Initiative, or NIH HEAL Initiative®, an ambitious effort to learn about the physical, mental, and societal impacts of the U.S. opioid crisis and to increase knowledge of effective, large-scale addiction treatment and support measures.

Through work with NIH HEAL Program Officials, the NIH HEAL Data Platform hosted by the University of Chicago, and all NIH HEAL Investigators, RTI and the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill are assisting in the development of an NIH HEAL Ecosystem that will modernize the data infrastructure.      

The NIH HEAL Data Stewardship Group ensures that NIH Health Data are Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable (FAIR) within the ecosystem, which allows researchers to easily search, access, share, store, and compute data across diverse NIH HEAL data types. By providing strategies for data sustainability, data search, and data federation and access, the NIH HEAL Data Stewardship Group fosters collaboration and data sharing that will continue to serve the NIH HEAL program in the future—a prime example of how robust open data practices can accelerate scientific solutions.

Looking Toward the Future of Open Science

In preparation for new and evolving crises, the commitment to sharing research and advancing equitable science is important across the research community. Open Science can also increase cooperative efforts among researchers, partners, participants, and the public to enhance rigor, experimentation, and, ultimately, solutions. By fueling the power of teamwork and improving access to scientific information, effective and scalable scientific discoveries that address the unique challenges the public faces should become the new norm in our evolving scientific ecosystem. Learn more about RTI’s Open Science initiatives and how we can work together to make research available to all.

Disclaimer: This piece was written by Mariel Christian (Senior Director, Scientific Stature Services) and Anna Wetterberg (Director, Scientific Stature Services & RTI Press) to share perspectives on a topic of interest. Expression of opinions within are those of the author or authors.